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Personal Reflection based on Johns (2000) February 19, 2007

Posted by alwilliams in Reflection.

Looking In:

The “looking in” section of this model is not present in the text below as it is the very process I am undergoing whilst writing this blog; I have space, time and calm to reflect using the reflective structure suggested by Johns (2000) [see earlier blog for explanation]. 

Looking Out:

What is the surrounding situation?  A variety of childhood issues has contributed the most to who I am.  This also applies to and impacts upon my professional life.  Although it is fairly certain to me that we are influenced by our first experiences and thus childhood, the extent of this influence will depend on how critical the events were compared to more recent events.  The more defined moments in our lives will have a greater impact on us today.  If these are personal then, as forum posts suggest;

“boundaries between the personal and the professional space become blurred, and that it is difficult to talk about professional reflection without going further into what makes us what we are.” http://www.cemp.ac.uk/macmp/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1761#1761 

Our personal and professional lives are intertwined, and if not, the driving force of our work life, which is shaped via our personality and socialisation.  As a result, a lot of the skills and approaches, I believe I have, seem to be derived from personal critical incidents.  For example throughout my childhood I lacked a strong family structure and support, with divorced parents and relatives that lived far away.  This has meant that; 

  I became highly autonomous.

  I do not readily ask for help and prefer to find solutions on my own.

  I am a sensitive person with an extrovert appearance. 

  I feel the need to prove I can do things and ‘achieve’ in life. 

All of these characteristics influence my actual work output and professional processes (as it does all my behaviour and even when I am acting as my “work self”, Cooley, 1954).  Maybe this is a result of my emotional personality or an inability to hide my true feelings, but these characteristics occasionally operate to the detriment of my professionalism in the work place.  This influences the way I operate, learn and my aims/ ambitions, more than my actual marketing skills do. Personal development therefore needs to be a key consideration along side the professional. By doing this MA and working in what I believe is a good position within the industry I feel validated in my intellectual base. But I now question whether I am on this course to feel like I am a “masters” of my trade and to show potential employers how good I am.  Or is it because I knew it would tangibly improve my skills and fulfil my reasons for being here today?  I have to say the MA is nothing like I expected and so the first sentiment may have some truth in it.  However I would say that for me this is not a bad thing, as I am happy to engage with the capitalist wheel and career etc.  Although I did initially start this course as I wanted to be a “Jack of all trades and a master of one”. 

What was/ have I been trying to achieve?  The above was my strategy for success at work- my grand plan if you will and my chosen mastery would be marketing.  I have known what I wanted to do pretty much from when I was 16.  I was really creative, loved and was good at my art.  I realised early though (and I am yet to conclude if this was a good thing or not) that this was unlikely to pay me what I think of as a decent wage.  So I decided that as I also enjoy strategic, problem solving thought, that I would go into advertising or marketing.  I tailored my ‘A Levels’ and degree towards this career.  Perhaps this limited my “Jack of all trades” ability, but I certainly had a clear plan of what I was going to do and where I would end up around now and it has all happened exactly to plan.  Yet if this is where I wanted to be am I satisfied and happy?  As Johns would ask; Did I act for the best?   

Did I act for the best? (for myself)  In retrospect I am not particularly more satisfied with my current situation than previous to achieving the above goal.  I feel that there is a the salary I strived for does nothing for me it seems- even though this is the point I thought I had made it.  Perhaps I set this goal because I wanted a measurable plan that was in line with more childhood aspirations of a ‘high flying’ life, lots of money, success etc.  I do distinctly envy the businessmen on the train to London when I was at college, on their expensive mobile phones, using their laptops and talking to their clients.  I would now say that this was not in my best interests and my outlook has changed since.  However fighting for this has not been a bad thing, nor made me unhappy.  I think this must be the ultimate goal of life (both personally and professionally) and so despite succeeding in my first, perhaps naïve action plan, I have not been deceitful to myself. Yet perhaps Cohen and Taylor (1992) are correct in that my previous ‘grand plan’ gave me a sense that what I was doing was worthwhile and a sense of being.  After all this was indeed a plan embarked upon during a hard time of my life and therefore seems feasible.  However I have no regrets for giving this lifestyle a try though and believe it has been of great benefit to me.  Nor do I think this should result in losing my need for or actual direction.  Some may suggest it could do (forum post), but in fact for me it puts the breaks on a bit.   

What knowledge could have informed me better?  Since this point I have realised that everything is too fluid or socially constructed for a ‘grand plan’ to be based on tangible things (e.g. success, money, security etc), and be of particular use.  For example I knew I wanted to go into marketing before I realised what the internet was and its eventual impact on the marketing industry.  Things in the industry have changed so much that there was a risk that I could have ended up in a position that I was not happy with, caused by external forces.  An appreciation that this can happen would therefore have been useful, as I may have considered myself to have ‘failed’, had I not been luck enough to enjoy what the Internet has brought.  Understanding the fluidity of society and the marketing industry would have achieved this.  Never the less, as a result I am going to focus on more personal ‘soft’ aspects of my life in my action plan than I would have previously.  I realised now that this drives me more than my physical professional skills and that personal characteristics and skills are more resistant to external forces than career goals and success metrics. As mentioned, I no longer believe that I am particularly satisfied with my situation (although not unhappy or dissatisfied), despite believing I would be after achieving my aims at the time.  I still do not consider that I have made it and now realise in retrospect that we never really ‘make it’, but rather the goals keep shifting and we always aspire for more.  Idealism is never a reality.  So despite my considered relative success in the marketing industry, I feel that my marketing skills may lack in a broader context.  On reflection this is because I have known for so long what I wanted to do, that I have potentially buried myself into a niche at the expense of wider understanding.  This may have been more beneficial in the long term and begs the question whether specialisation is superior to a wider but shallower knowledge base.  

How could I handle this situation better?  A revision of how I go about and actually creating my personal action plan will demonstrate this.  However I do enjoy turmoil and change, as I am so used to it, but it is unnerving possibility that “actually Al you are no way as good as you thought you were”!  Despite what may have been insinuated hard skills cannot be ignored, especially if an action plan is required to improve my skill set and essentially make me more employable.  Previously I created aspirations on the basis of my job role, salary and industry I thought I wanted to work in.  Now it is the skills themselves that are deemed important.  They shouldn’t have been ignored either, as looking back I enjoy learning new things and watching my knowledge of a subject grow.  I have taught myself Meteorology and French successfully (I enjoyed doing it and consider knowing a fair bit about them) and so making knowledge a feature of my plans should fill in any knowledge gaps and balance the attention on “soft” skills and understanding of my professional industry. 


1. Julian - February 19, 2007

Well done Al, that’s well structured and comes over well. I hope you’re pleased with it!

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